I'll admit that, when I first heard Cloud Nothings' fuzzed-up lo-fi sound on their self-titled debut, I wrote them off as just another noisy bedroom act. Sure, there were catchy pop songs, but the fuzz was unrelenting. That's why I was so surprised to find their second record, Attack on Memory, on Pitchfork's Best New Music list. I was intrigued enough to grab the record and discovered that Cloud Nothings are a completely changed band, now harking back to a post-emo 90's sound that's more grunge than bedroom pop.
Attack on Memory is decidedly darker and more brooding than their previous work and, above all, completely removed from their original sound. Bordering on screamo at times, it makes you wonder if something devastating happened that caused them to perform such an emotional overhaul of their music and identity. When front man Dylan Baldi screams "No future! No past!" it makes you want to ask, "Are you okay?"
But once you get past the first track, it's clear that Cloud Nothings are doing more than okay. Tracks like "Stay Useless" and "No Sentiment" are far more catchy, and have a Tokyo Police Club vibe to them. That is, if Tokyo Police Club turned punk. It makes it more ironic when Baldi sings, "No nostalgia, no sentiment, we're over it now, we were over it then," perfectly playing into the whole crusty punk aesthetic of a band trying to sound as apathetic as possible. But apathy's a difficult thing to pull off when you're screaming your lyrics.
If Cloud Nothings were apathetic, they would likely churn out another bedroom pop album to satiate fans, but instead, they have unexpectedly redefined themselves with a mixture of teenage angst and nostalgia for eras they were never around for. In fact, the video for "No Future/No Past" elicits a kind of panic. In it, we watch an older man being dragged into the woods by an invisible force -- what it means is never addressed, but it does hint at some kind of impending, unseen danger.
It's also interesting to find an outlet like Pitchfork rallying around a record like this one. Describing a genre that is not their typical terrain, they cite Cloud Nothings as the protégé of bands like Braid and Jawbreaker: legendary bands whose sound and era are not easily emulated. And, after performing such a radical transition between their last two records, I'll be curious to see what the band's next album sounds like.
If you're looking to release some pent-up aggression, I suggest you see Cloud Nothings with A Classic Education and Lanterns at Soda Bar and channel your inner teenage angst. Buy your tickets for the February 28 show here.